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Powerful Living


Rural electrifi cation celebrates 80 years of productivity


Are you ready? Editor’s Words I


Top achievers from the nation’s leading engineering schools were screened and selected to work at the Rural Electrifi cation Administration. This photo was taken in January 1937. The gentleman standing in the fi fth position (left to right) is Jack Taylor who worked for Western Farmers Electric Cooperative in Anadarko, Okla., until approximately 1984. Photo taken from “The Next Greatest Thing” celebratory book.


f you were born and raised in Okla- homa, it’s likely you have heard about disaster preparedness. If you were not raised in Oklahoma, but have lived here for a while (in my case, I hail from South America), you know being prepared before storms and/or tor- nadoes can make the event a little more bearable. The concept of disaster preparedness


Anna Politano Editor,


Oklahoma Living By Brandon McBride, administrator, USDA Rural Utility Service I


n the depths of the Great Depression, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037 on May 11, 1935 establishing the Rural Electrifi - cation Administration (REA), a temporary agency tasked with deciding how to fund rural electric systems. The following year, Congress passed


the Rural Electrifi cation Act of 1936, giving statutory power to the new agency.


It didn’t take them long to get to work. In 1937, the REA noted the most spectacular increase of rural electrifi cation in the history of the United States had been achieved. Thanks to this national commitment, more than 1.2 million farms had electric service and the gap between urban and rural standards of living was closing. For the fi rst time in history, thousands of rural communities had hope of securing electricity. And like no other time in history, the economic landscape of rural areas changed. A 1954 Rural Lines newsletter noted that “Three years ago, not one acre of rice was being grown in the area served by the rural electric system [the Mississippi Delta]…Today more than 19,000 acres are planted…” Rural electrifi cation provided irrigation capability, which increased farm earnings and helped rural economies grow. Having grown up in Arkansas, I know that rural electric cooperatives still serve communities across the country today.


Electric cooperatives helped rural areas turn the U.S. into the breadbas- ket of the world. When the nation made this commitment to rural America, the whole country gained and helped America become the world leader. I am proud to be part of that legacy in the Rural Utility Service and its predecessor, the REA. And equally proud to be part of USDA’s continued commitment to improving the lives of rural Americans.


JUNE 2015 5


has a renewed meaning to me. In 2013, my husband and I decided to install a storm shelter in our home. We have little ones and wanted to ensure they would be safe in the event of a tornado. Within a week of installation, we had to use the shelter. This time, however, as we heard of ongoing tornado warning alerts, we felt more at peace. This edition of Oklahoma Living is inspired by disaster pre- paredness. On Page 12, you will read the impactful story of the longest-tenured state emergency management director, Albert Ashwood. A proud Oklahoman from Muskogee, Ashwood says Oklahoma’s greatest challenge is having individuals and fami- lies prepare before natural or man-made disasters take place. In truth, no one wants to prepare for something bad before it happens, but investments made to become prepared will even- tually pay off. Does your family know what to do in the event of a disaster? If not, the story on Page 20 about creating a family prepared- ness plan can serve as a great start for you. To quote Director Ashwood, “we’re only as prepared as a country as individuals and families are prepared.” Being prepared is a priority for your rural electric cooperative.


While natural disasters cannot be controlled, it is crucial for co-ops to stand ready to answer the call to restore power to their membership in an effi cient and safe manner. Since cooperatives thrive on cooperation, your electric cooperative benefi ts from a Mutual Aid program sponsored by the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. To fi nd out how cooperatives help each other in times of crisis, please read the story on Page 28. The principle of being prepared does not only apply to di-


sasters; preparation is key to facing challenges effectively and performing well when the unexpected (or expected) hits. Oklahomans repetitively show their resilience in the face of trouble. I hope this edition will inspire you to invest in being prepared.


Are you ready?


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